Mobile phones
Getting around

Part 1: Introduction

Map of Australia
01.01: KL -> Brisbane
02.01: Brisbane -> Sydney
03.01: Sydney
04.01: Sydney
05.01: Sydney -> Blue Mountains
06.01: Sydney -> Melbourne
07.01: Melbourne
08.01: Melbourne -> Yarra valley -> Healesville ->
09.01: Melbourne -> KL

Overview and overall impression
This was my first trip to Australia. Here are some random impressions:
  • Not impressed about the local infrastructure in Australia: the Gold Coast airport has no A/C despite the heat and no rail link to Brisbane; the Brisbane train station has only one-way escalators and no A/C; broken baggage belt at the Brisbane airport; aging infrastucture at the Sydney airport.
  • Given the distances and the available public transportation, it seems that the best way to explore Australia is to rent a car.
  • Food is not bad, since there are lots of immigrants from various countries.
  • Not much to see in Brisbane.
  • Was surprised to find cool weather in Sydney and Melbourne, since latitude-wise they correspond to northern Africa and it was the hot season.
  • Lots of tourists in Sydney, fewer in Melbourne.
  • Lots of Asian people in Sydney.

Australia is way more expensive than SE Asian countries. A good standard middle class hotel room goes for AUD 130-150, meals can be had for less than AUD 20. Taxis are quite pricey, but less expensive over longer distances. Cheap flights are available through the low cost carriers Jetstar and Virgin Blue, although also Quantas is not much more expensive. As a daily budget (not including flights) one could calculate AUD 200.

There are food courts in the major shopping malls in all cities I visited. I wasn't too impressed by the food in Brisbane, but the situation improved in Sydney and Melbourne. In Melbourne, but especially Sydney there are lots of Japanese restaurants everywhere. Either many Japanese immigrants or lots of demand for Japanese food in Australia. Most bakeries are not good - found only a handful bakeries with decent cakes and pastries.

I stayed in middle class hotel rooms at rates ranging between AUD 130 and 150. Booked these hotels through the quickbeds.com portal at Flight Centre agencies. The rooms were all of good standard with A/C, attached bathroom, nicely furnished and comfortable. Wasn't too impressed by the B&B in Brisbane

Money  / Exchange rate (January 2009)
1 Euro = AUD  2.0 - 1.87
For current exchange rates check the Universal Currency Converter.

ATMs are everywhere, so that you can easily get cash with a Cirrus/Maestro ATM card. You won't need traveller cheques.

Mobile phones and prepaid cards
Unpleasant surprise with the prepaid GSM card of Vodafone. It required activation and the kiosk where I bought it would not activate it. I had to activate it myself at the Gold Coast airport, spending AUD 8 on Internet access charges in the process.
The activation asked for an Australian address which I did not have, so I had to ask some locals for a dummy address to enter. Then, despite the activation, I still could not make phone calls. To top it all, the hotline of Vodafone was closed the day I bought the card (Jan 1st, the hotline of Vodafone closes on public holidays).
The people in the kiosk where I bought the telephone card were clueless and gave wrong advice. When I tried to return the card they refused to refund me.
My advice would be to stay away from Vodafone Australia and when you buy a prepaid GSM card ask if the place where you buy the card will activate it for you.


Internet access
Plenty of Internet cafes everywhere, especially in Sydney. I chose hotels which offered Internet access in the room. This was available for a fee ranging from AUD 10 to 25/day.


Very hot and dry in Brisbane, but also cloudy for part of the day. Incredibly cold on my first day in Sydney, then it became hotter and in the interior it was very hot (temperatures well above 30°C).
Much more fresh in Melbourne, even too cold to walk around with shorts and a T-shirt (temperatures well below 20°C).
Except for half an hour in the Sherbrooke forest near Belgrave no rain.

Health / Vaccinations
None required for Australia. But you must answer some questions about your health when you enter Australia.

VISA / Entry requirements
Surprisingly, despite having a German passport, I had to apply for an electronic visa. Got an "e-visitor" within 24 hours of applying for it.

No issues here.

Recommended things
  • The botanical gardens in Sydney - very nice and I was greeted by a flock of wild sulphur crested cockatoos, who were not afraid of humans.

Things to avoid
  • The Vodafone GSM card, mainly because activating it is so messy and they have no customer support at all on public holidays and perhaps also not on weekends.
  • The city of Brisbane - not much to see.
  • The Gold Coast airport (where you arrive if you use Airasia) if you need to go to Brisbane, because getting to Brisbane takes such a long time with public transportation.

Getting around
The city centres of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne are compact enough to be explored by foot. No need to use public transportation. Taxis are an option when the distances are not too big. Flights within Australia are inexpensive, if you use the low-cost airlines. Although I didn't try it, renting a car is probably the best way to explore the non-urban areas of Australia.

Copyright 2009 Alfred Molon